Executive Legal Secretary Training and Education Program Overviews
An executive legal secretary provides assistance to lawyers and other legal professionals. While many legal secretaries learn their skills through on-the-job training, some might choose to enroll in a Legal Secretary Certificate program.
Legal Secretary Certificate
A legal secretary prepares legal reports, performs background research and carries out administrative duties. The job is different from that of a paralegal, professionals who are responsible for performing much more substantive legal tasks. While a paralegal might complete an associate's degree program, a legal secretary need only complete certificate courses at a community college or university's continuing education department.
Students enrolled in a legal secretary certificate program develop an understanding of the U.S. legal process as well as build their secretarial skills. They study legal terminology, legal ethics, filing procedures, billing procedures, legal research processes, legal document preparation and more.
Students should have solid keyboarding ability and a basic knowledge of word processing software before enrolling in an executive legal secretary certificate program. A high school diploma is also often required. Some programs in the field are specifically designed only for students who already have an educational or professional background in the secretarial field.
Many legal secretary certificate programs offer courses covering both the legal background information and practical office skills needed to gain employment in the field. Some specific topics covered include:
- U.S. court systems
- Organization of law firms
- Written communication
- Legal research
- Ethics and law
- Records management
- Time management
- Billing and filing procedures
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Nearly 217,000 legal secretaries were employed in the United States in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). More than 187,000 of these professionals were employed directly by law firms, while others worked for government agencies and insurance companies, per the BLS. The median annual salary in the field in 2012 was $42,170. Because of the slow growth of the entire legal industry, the BLS reported that the number of legal secretary jobs was likely to grow by just 4% from 2010-2020.
Certification and Continuing Education
Two organizations offering national certification for legal secretaries include the National Association of Legal Secretaries (NALS) and Legal Secretaries International. Professional certificates are not required in the field, but can be useful to jobseekers looking for employment as well as for professionals looking to improve their career opportunities and salary potential.
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